Page 267 of Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage reads

Adjectives ending in -ic (comic, rustic, etc.), -ive (active, restive, etc.), and -ous (famous, odious, virtuous, etc.) do not have -er and -est forms except in special circumstances.

What special circumstances is the author referring to?

Secondly, what would such forms be for comic? comicker/est?

  • In a dictinoary search, I found ... nativest positivest curiousest jealousest
    – GEdgar
    May 11, 2021 at 18:19
  • 1
    Because those adjectives already have suffixes (-ive, -ic, -ous) and two suffixes (second in this case being -er/est) don't attach to a single word in English? May 11, 2021 at 18:22
  • I don't know what circumstances are referred to by the author, although I suspect he's talking about words that have those ‘endings’ (not ‘suffixes’). And yes, the comparative and superlative of comic would be comicker and comickest respectively. May 11, 2021 at 18:30
  • 'Chicer' and 'chicest' are attested. 'Comic' tends not to grade, @Decapitated. 'A more comical sketch is hard to imagine' uses the expected adjective here. May 11, 2021 at 18:31
  • 2
    “Except in special circumstances” is one of the ways to indicate that there are exceptions to a statement or “rule,” each of which may have its own explanation.
    – Xanne
    May 11, 2021 at 20:14

1 Answer 1


One example of the special case would curiouser, an er form of the adjective curious. It is a special case of neologism derived from a work of literature, in this case, Alice in Wonderland.

  • I don't think any of these others caught on though: T was brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe... (Also, say curiousest three times quickly.) May 12, 2021 at 1:36
  • The comparative and superlative forms curiouser and curiousest are regarded as informal or nonstandard en.wiktionary.org/wiki/curious#Usage_notes
    – GJC
    Jun 27, 2021 at 9:45

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